8 Teams on the Bubble of the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament
The ‘March Madness’ of the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins with the play-in games on Tuesday, March 19. With no truly dominant team in the NCAA this season, a spot in the 68-team tournament field will allow the selected schools an even better chance at the national championship.
While powers like Duke, Indiana and Kansas are all but guaranteed a spot, many other teams are on the bubble of the 2013 NCAA tournament field. Here are eight teams that need to keep winning so their bubble doesn’t burst.
When the defending national champions lost all five starters from its title team to the 2012 NBA Draft, Kentucky (20-8, 11-4 SEC) knew the 2012-13 season would be challenging. Head coach John Calipari’s Wildcats have still managed to claw their way into third place in the Southeastern Conference. With an inconsistent offense — and without injured super-freshman Nerlens Noel — Kentucky is not a tournament lock.
*Current RPI Ranking: 46
Why They’ll Get In: Wins over fellow bubble teams Maryland and then-ranked Mississippi will help Kentucky’s cause. The overtime victory over Missouri last Saturday was a big plus. If the Wildcats can knock off Florida at home on Mar. 9, that could lock in a bid.
Why They Won’t: Some of Kentucky’s key losses were to other bubble teams like Baylor and Alabama. UK’s 30-point loss to Tennessee on Feb. 16 was memorably ugly.
After advancing to the Elite Eight in 2012, Baylor (17-11, 8-7 Big 12) has slipped back significantly in 2013. Star senior guard Pierre Jackson (19.2 ppg) and freshman Isaac Austin (13.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg) have done their part, now the rest of the team must help. Wednesday night’s win over West Virginia put the Bears over .500 in the Big 21, but they need more wins.
Current RPI Ranking: 64
Why They’ll Get In: Wins over fellow bubble team Kentucky and Big 12 power Oklahoma State show that Baylor can beat good teams. They have three games left on the schedule, including home dates with No. 13 Kansas State and No. 6 Kansas. The Bears probably need to win at least one of those games to lock in a bid.
Why They Won’t: Terrible losses to the College of Charleston and Northwestern, coupled with a failure to compete against Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma on the road will hurt Baylor’s chances.
With guard Khalif Wyatt capable of scoring on any defense, Temple (19-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) has pushed some of the nation’s best teams this season. Unfortunately, coach Fran Dunphy’s team has been inconsistent, suffering through a 6-6 mid-season slump after a hot start. The Owls are dramatic: before demolishing Charlotte by 20 last weekend, they had won four of five consecutive one-point decisions.
Current RPI Ranking: 39
Why They’ll Get In: Wins over Syracuse, La Salle and fellow bubble team Villanova, and competitive losses to Kansas and Butler, help make the Owls’ case for a bid. They have four more games to play in the regular season, and they should be the favorite in all of the contests.
Why They Won’t: Losses to Duquesne and St. Bonaventure at home hurt the Owls. The selection committee could hold it against them.
After Maryland (19-9, 7-8 ACC) knocked off Duke on Feb. 16, the Terrapins seemed a solid choice to make the NCAA tournament. However, they are under .500 in the conference with just three games to play. Head coach Mark Turgeon’s team is just 6-7 in its last 13 games. The Terps are 1-6 in conference road games.
Current RPI Ranking: 67
Why They’ll Get In: The win over Duke, another victory over a ranked-N.C. State team in January and an early-season 13-game winning streak give the Terrapins a chance to make the field. A victory against North Carolina on Mar. 6 or Virginia on Mar. 10 should lock up a bid.
Why They Won’t: A loss to Boston College, two defeats at the hands of Florida State and a season-opening defeat at fellow bubble team Kentucky, plus their recent erratic play, could doom Maryland.
With all of its talent, Villanova (18-11, 9-7 Big East) would seem to be a team that should have locked up its NCAA tournament bid already. However, Jay Wright’s Wildcats have been streaky, at times, dropping games to inferior opponents. JayVaughn Pinkston and Mouphtaou Yarou form a front court that can play with anyone.
Current RPI Ranking: 55
Why They’ll Get In: Back-to-back wins over then-top 5 teams Louisville and Syracuse and another big home victory over Marquette on Feb. 23 are key. If Villanova can beat either Pittsburgh on Mar. 3 or Georgetown on Mar. 6, they should make the field of 68.
Why They Won’t: Early season losses to Columbia, La Salle and fellow bubble team Temple, as well as a road loss to Seton Hall on Monday will hurt the Wildcats’ tournament chances. If they lose out — and other favored teams fall in conference tournaments — Villanova could get bounced out of the NCAA field.
In most years, a 20-win season would be enough for Mississippi (21-7, 10-5 SEC) to make the NCAA field, but not this year. Until winning their last two games, against Auburn and Texas A&M respectively, Ole Miss had lost five of seven contests. Few players are as entertaining as polarizing Rebels’ guard Marshall Henderson, but he may not have a chance at the NCAA spotlight.
Current RPI Ranking: 58
Why They’ll Get In: A victory against then-ranked Missouri is the Rebels’ best win. They’ll play fellow bubble team Alabama on Mar. 5 at home in a key game for both schools. The committee could consider Henderson as a ratings draw in a play-in round game.
Why They Won’t: This is a terribly inconsistent team. Road losses at South Carolina, Texas A&M and Indiana State will hurt Mississippi’s chances at a bid. They still have two of their last three regular season games on the road.
Arizona State (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) has played well in a weak Pac-12 conference. The Sun Devils have 20 wins, but close their season on the road at USC and Arizona. Losing four of their last six games, including Wednesday’s overtime loss at UCLA, hasn’t helped Herb Sendek’s team get closer to an NCAA tournament bid.
Current RPI Ranking: 85
Why They’ll Get In: If the Sun Devils can beat Arizona on Mar. 9, it will give them their first victory over a top 25 opponent. Two earlier wins over Colorado and one over UCLA at home will help.
Why They Won’t: Arizona State played a very weak non-conference schedule. Pair that with the Pac-12’s lack of ranked teams, and the Sun Devils’ RPI is fated to stay high. Two losses to Washington hurt, as well.
As the second-place team in the Southeastern Conference, Alabama (19-9, 11-4 SEC) would seem like a likely invitee to the NCAA tournament. However, the Crimson Tide probably still need two victories in their last three games to guarantee a bid. They travel to No. 8 Florida on Mar. 2, play fellow bubble team Mississippi on Mar. 5 and then home against Georgia on Mar. 9.
Current RPI Ranking: 63
Why They’ll Get In: Wins over fellow bubble teams Villanova and Kentucky, as well as a victory over Arkansas, help make Alabama’s case for admission. A few wins in the SEC tournament would be huge for the Crimson Tide.
Why They Won’t: Ugly losses to Auburn, LSU and Tennessee in the conference, as well as no victories over ranked teams, make Alabama seem weak.